Brugnoni belts 33rd career HR to set record
Senior first baseman Giancarlo Brugnoni of the Grand Valley State University baseball team didn’t wait long to blast his way into Laker history.
Brugnoni crushed his 33rd career home run just three games into the 2014 campaign on Sunday at the University of Southern Indiana to become the school’s all-time home run leader, and GVSU took a 2-1 series edge in the early-season battle between the nationally-ranked teams.
“I had more of a ground-ball approach today, so I was trying to drive the ball the other way,” he said. “He gave me a good pitch in my first at-bat and I struck it good. I wasn’t sure it was good enough to get out, but it did.”
The pre-season NCBWA First Team All-American smashed the record-setting bomb in the top of the first, and it seemed to open the floodgates for the Laker offense.
The GVSU bats came alive in the top of the third, as the Lakers hammered USI with nine runs to take an 11-2 lead on their way to an eventual 12-6 exclamation point to the three-game set.
“It’s a good feeling today, but we’ve got to keep it going,” said Brugnoni, who finished the game with five RBIs. “The record won’t matter if we don’t have a good season, so hopefully we can set some more records as a team.”
The matchup had been dictated by superior pitching and defense through two games.
In game one, USI managed to scrape together the first run of the tilt in the fourth inning after a walk, stolen base and wild pitch put a runner on third. A one-out single to left field pushed across the game’s first score.
The Lakers had to find a way stay alive in the top of the ninth as the score was still 1-0 with two outs, and senior catcher Taylor Banks obliged by roping a single into left field for his third hit of the game. Senior pinch runner Ariel Aracena-Sanchez sped home from second to score the game-tying run.
The Screaming Eagles still had one final opportunity to walk off, however, and they took advantage.
GVSU head coach Jamie Detillion made the decision to remove junior starter Aaron Jensen from the game following a double and an intentional walk, but the bullpen failed to strand the runner on second.
USI drew two consecutive walks, pushed the winning run across home plate and took game one 2-1.
“Jensen was outstanding,” Detillion said. “He definitely deserved the win. It’s always disappointing when you lose, but all things considered, we played pretty well for not playing outside prior to this game.”
Game two was much of the same, but this time, the score flipped in favor of the Lakers.
With the game tied at 1-1 in the seventh, junior infielder Aaron Overbeck singled Banks home to nudge the Lakers ahead with a one-run lead.
GVSU got another dominant pitching performance from the sophomore duo of Patrick Kelly and Russell Griffin, who combined to allow just one run off five hits in the 2-1 victory.
“It’s always nice to get the first-game jitters out of the way,” Kelly said. “We’ve been fielding everything really well, we haven’t been striking out and as long as we continue to hit the ball hard and put the ball in play, we shouldn’t have a problem winning games.”
Kelly, the 2013 GLIAC Freshman of the Year, earned the first victory of the season for GVSU with six innings of one-run ball.
Griffin twirled 2.1 innings for the Lakers while limiting USI to just one hit. The smooth sailing was interrupted in the bottom of the ninth, however, as SIU managed to come up with back-to-back singles, which put the tying and winning runs on base.
Senior Chris Ripple relieved Griffin with one out in the frame, and after getting a flyout, he induced a game-ending groundball as GVSU evened the series at one game apiece.
“Our pitching has been great,” Banks said. “We’re going with what the pitchers have each day. If it’s a fastball, we go with fastballs, and if it’s offspeed, we go offspeed. We’ve been attacking hitters early and it’s been working.”
GVSU (2-1) will return to the diamond for 10 games as part of its spring break trip in Florida from March 3 to March 10.